Arts Architecture Case Study Houses Visit

The homes in the Case Study House Program were built between 1945 and 1966 when Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned the major architects of the day to create inexpensive and replicable model homes to accommodate the residential housing boom in the United States caused by the flood of returning soldiers at the end of World War II. 

The resulting experiment in American residential architecture involved many of the great architects of the day such as Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen—and had a major impact on modernist residential architecture. 

Of the 36 houses and apartment buildings that were commissioned, only a couple dozen were built, with around 20 still standing today. Eleven were added to the National Register in 2013. While most of the homes are still private residences, the Eames and Stahl Houses—are open to the public for tours. Here is a look at 10 of our favorites. 

Cover photo taken by @christineevi of the Stahl House

The Stahl House, Case Study House #22, 1959

This home embodies Pierre Koenig’s iconic representation of modernist architecture in L.A. It's been featured in numerous films, fashion shoots, and advertising campaigns over the years since it was built in 1959. Perched high in the Hollywood Hills, its floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow for stunning panoramic views of the city. 

The Eames House, Case Study House #8, 1949

Located in Los Angeles' Pacific Palisades neighborhood, The Eames House—also known as Case Study House #8—is a landmark of midcentury modern architecture. Constructed in 1949 by husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, the house consists of two glass-and-steel rectangular boxes: one served as their residence, while the other was their studio. The facades consist of black-painted grids with different-sized inserts of glass (clear, translucent, or wired), gray Cemesto panels (both painted and natural), stucco (off-white, black, blue, and orange/red), aluminum (silver or painted), and specially-treated panels (gold-leafed or with a photographic panel). In reference to the Eames’ work, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History blogged, "In all of their projects, color was a strategic tool; never did they apply hues indiscriminately. Rather, their brilliant palette spotlighted salient points of information that they wanted to convey, capturing both the eyes and minds of viewers." 

The Bass House, Case Study House #20B, 1958

The Bass House, which is known as Case Study House #20B (there were two Case Study Houses numbered 20), was constructed in 1958 in Altadena, California. The home differs from the other Case Study homes in that it was built primarily out of wood, instead of steel. It was designed by architectural firm Buff, Straub, and Hensman, who worked closely with the owners, renowned graphic illustrator Saul Bass and his wife biochemist Dr. Ruth Bass. The architects were interested in the possibilities of wood as it pertained to mass production in home construction.

Case Study House #1, 1948

Despite its numbering, Case Study House #1 was not the first house to be completed as part of Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program. Designed by Julius Ralph Davidson, the 2,000-square-foot house was completed in 1948. Situated on a gently sloping lot in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, the house introduced architectural elements that came to characterize the program, including floor-to-ceiling glass, a flat roof, and an open floor plan. 

Case Study House #16, 1952

Designed by Craig Ellwood, Case Study House #16 was the first of three houses in Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program. Ellwood—who had been trained as an engineer—was a contractor without formal architectural training. Today, it's the only surviving, intact example of Ellwood’s designs for the program. His passion for industrial materials is evident in the use of of steel, glass, and concrete.

The Entenza House, Case Study House #9, 1949

Designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen and completed in 1949, the Entenza House is situated on a flat bluff in the Pacific Palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The modular home features a steel frame construction, which has been concealed with wood-paneled cladding. Entenza frequently entertained, so the house consists of mostly public space. 

The West House, Case Study House #18, 1948

Constructed in the Pacific Palisades on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the West House was designed by Rodney Walker and completed in 1948. It was the first of four adjacent houses on Chautauqua Boulevard that were built as part of Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program. Note that the neighboring Case Study Houses #8, #9, and #20 were completed within the next two years. The 1,600-square-foot home takes full advantage of panoramic ocean views with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. 

The Stuart Bailey House, Case Study House #20, 1948

Built in 1948, the two-bedroom Stuart Bailey House was designed by Richard Neutra and is currently one of two residences on the Sam Simon Estate, the Pacific Palisades property that recently sold for $14.9 million. Neutra employed a classic, open midcentury layout and large, floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors. It was the only Case Study home designed by Neutra that was actually built.

 Triad Case Study House #23A, 1960

As the largest of three adjacent single-family residences that form the Triad grouping, Case Study House #23A was completed in 1960. The three homes were planned to be the pilot project for a large tract of houses in the La Jolla district of San Diego, but these three were the only ones that were built. The goal for the Triad homes was to design in a manner that created a close relationship between the houses, while still maintaining privacy. All three homes were designed by Edward Killingsworth, Jules Brady, and Waugh Smith. 

John Entenza, publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, purchased a five-acre meadow overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the intention of building several demonstration houses in close proximity for the Case Study House Program. Originally, six houses were intended to be built, but only five were (one of which was disavowed). It is a unique concentration, illuminating the innovative thinking of different architects as they addressed the challenge issued by Arts & Architecture magazine.

Landscaping and siting was used to provide privacy between the structures.  Seen on the left, a berm was built between the Eames and Entenza houses that was then planted heavily.

The December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture discussed these two houses co-designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen: “While the land is intended to be used communally, each house is so oriented so that it has complete privacy within its indoor-outdoor needs. The road follows the natural contour of the hill and will be allowed to gather leaves and regain the natural surface of the land. It serves each of the two houses, expanding for necessary turning and parking areas.”

The Five Bluff Houses

CSH #8, THE EAMES HOUSE, completed 1949

Designed by Charles and Ray Eames,
Featured in December 1949 Arts & Architecture,
Eames Foundation, open to the public.

The second design for the site, the house was nestled into the hillside in order to preserve the meadow and trees. The same off-the-shelf materials–steel, expanses of glass and stucco–were reassembled into the new design, essentially a kit of parts.  The structure is fully revealed, a celebration of the honest use of materials. View the National Historic Landmark Nomination here.

CSH #9, THE ENTENZA HOUSE, completed 1949

Designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen,
Featured in July 1950 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Construction photo of the Eames House, with the Entenza House clearly seen beyond.

The Entenza House was designed for John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture, who spearheaded the Case Study House Program. As described by the LA Conservatory, CSH #9 “is a modular plan and features steel frame construction. But in contrast to many modern residences utilizing steel frame construction, that of the Entenza House is not actually revealed, but concealed with wood-paneled cladding… This design exemplified the concept of merging interior spaces through glass expanses and seamless materials.”

The Eames House and the Entenza House are not only linked by their designers, but they have also been described as comparative spaces. While the Eames House has been described as a revealed vertical space, the Entenza House offers a complimentary concealed horizontal space. Through these comparisons, CSH #8 and CSH #9 offer different perspectives of inside vs. outside space as well as private vs. public space. View the National Register of Historic Places Nomination by clicking here.

CSH #18, THE WEST HOUSE, completed in 1948

Designed by Rodney Walker,
Featured in February 1948 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Construction photo looking through the Eames House, with the Entenza House to the left, and the West House with its garage and lawn reaching to the right.

CSH #18 was the first Case Study House built on the bluff, and as described in Arts & Architecture, it displays “a simple, straight-forward solution of the client’s problems”. The intended clients for the West House were a couple in their early thirties who expected to entertain frequently.

Walker used floor-to-ceiling glass panels in public areas to emphasize the impressive ocean views, as well as created a living room with “a feeling of openness and informal spaciousness” for ease in entertaining. As explained in Arts & Architecture, the house was constructed on a three-foot module system to emphasize efficiency, symmetry, and the “absence of waste”. View the National Register of Historic Places Nomination by clicking here.

CSH #20, THE BAILEY HOUSE, completed in 1948

Original structure and later expansions designed by Richard Neutra,
Featured in December 1948 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

At the time the Bailey House was built, Richard Neutra was the most well-known and respected architect taking part in the Case Study House program. As was typical for him at the time, Neutra designed the house with an extensive use of glass, steel and wood.

The client, Dr. Bailey, was a young, newly married doctor who needed to keep the budget low. Neutra’s design included several potential future additions, so that the house could grow along with the doctor’s family and budget. In addition, Neutra incorporated flexible, multi-purpose spaces open to the exterior, allowing the family to use the outdoor space for dining and entertaining.

HOUSE #201, Unofficial

Original design by Richard Neutra,
Featured in May 1947 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Considered the “forgotten case study house”, the House at #201 was originally designed by Richard Neutra in the late 1940s. The design was changed at the request of the first owners and therefore was not included in the Case Study Program.

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